Malcolm Jenkins was a victim Wednesday morning of an attack he did not see coming or deserve. The Eagles safety and No. 1 social advocate thought he was doing good work in a proper manner, but he learned through the media that a couple of his cohorts were pulling out of a coalition that was started by Jenkins and former NFL receiver Anquan Boldin last year.
San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid and Miami Dolphins safety Michael Thomas sent their message in tweets that were worded exactly the same:
“With much thought and consideration, I’ve decided to officially withdraw my involvement in the Players Coalition founded by Malcolm Jenkins and Anquan Boldin. The Players Coalition was supposed to be formed as a group that represents NFL Athletes who have been silently protesting social injustices and racism. However, Malcolm and Anquan can no longer speak on our behalf as we don’t believe the coalition’s beliefs are in our best interests as a whole. We will continue to have dialogue with the league to find equitable solutions, but without Malcolm and Anquan as our representatives.”
Reid told ESPN’s Jim Trotter that Jenkins had conversations with the NFL without him or Thomas being involved. Reid also claimed Jenkins told the NFL that players would end demonstrations during the national anthem if money was donated by the league to certain initiatives. ESPN reported in the same story that the league had shown a final proposal to Jenkins’ coalition that would donate $100 million to causes deemed important to African American communities.
“That was never discussed at any point,” Reid said. “I feel like I’ve been misled. I won’t accuse Malcolm of directly lying to me, because I don’t think he’s that type of guy. But I will say he’s misled us. And shoot, if that’s what lying is, then that’s what it is.”
That is one heck of a way not to call someone a liar. To Jenkins’ credit, he took the high road on the matter after the Eagles finished practice Wednesday afternoon at the NovaCare Complex.
“In my mind, nothing has changed,” Jenkins said. “You got players that want to draw attention to issues in their communities and who want to make a significant impact on those issues. We’ve been trying to work through the league to try to find effective ways in doing that and we’ve been making progress in that direction.”
Securing $100 million from the league in order to advance causes that impact African Americans sure sounds like progress and good work, but Reid, for some reason, is whining about it.
“Malcolm continues to have conversations on his own with the NFL, and the Players Coalition is his organization,” Reid said. “When we agreed to be a part of the Players Coalition, we were under the impression that it would be our organization. We were under the impression that we would all have equal say in that organization.
“But we’ve come to find out that it’s actually Malcolm and Anquan’s organization. Nobody else really has a stake in the organization. Malcolm actually wants us to — he calls it invest, I call it donate — to the company to pay salaries for his staff. But again, we would have no equity in the organization.”
No equity? What does Reid mean? If he’s really fighting for a worthwhile cause, there is no greater equity than helping that cause.
Jenkins said he spoke with Reid on Tuesday night and he was not given the courtesy of being warned that the 49ers safety was backing out of the coalition.
“He didn’t make that clear,” Jenkins said. “We were discussing some of the details of what the league has proposed. I wanted some input. Really that was the biggest thing. I was asking for some input before I responded to some of the questions that the league had from us. So, yeah, this did catch me by a little bit of a surprise this morning.”
The best guess here is that the protest from Reid and Thomas has everything to do with Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who started a maelstrom of controversy last season when he started kneeling during the national anthem as a form of protest against police brutality and other social injustices in African American communities. Reid was the first to kneel next to Kaepernick last year and that was fine. Thomas also played with Kaepernick briefly in 2013, so he is likely tight with the former quarterback who filed a collusion grievance against the NFL last month.
Kaepernick claimed he was not invited by Jenkins to attend a meeting the Players Coalition held with the NFL last month in New York City, but Jenkins said he believes the league has always been open to the former quarterback’s involvement.
“To my knowledge, that has never been an issue,” Jenkins said.
The Eagles safety also said he is unsure that Kaepernick wants to be involved. If that’s the case, it sure seems as if Kaepernick’s camp is simply unhappy that he is no longer the front man for the cause.
Kneeling to make a point was fine, but Jenkins, who has raised his fist during the national anthem since early last season, properly noted that actions away from the field are far more important than any gesture made before a game.
“I think we’re close to forming a partnership that we feel like can amplify the voices of the players,” Jenkins said. “This whole protest to me has been to draw awareness. If the league is proposing something out there that can replace that or amplify that voice, then I see no need in continuing the protests. But those conversations are still being had.”
And, despite the weak protestations of Eric Reid and Michael Thomas, the Players Coalition could not have a better voice than Jenkins’ to represent it.